Midsummer Round-Up: The Year (so far) in Books

Given it’s Midsummer’s Day - and the sun is shining - it seemed a good moment to reflect on the year in books so far. There’ve been lots. Lots of truly exceptional books (February and March especially brought an embarrassment of literary riches). So I decided to pick just my best five (it was a tough job, but someone had to do it). Then, because I felt guilty about all the great books I haven’t yet got around to reading from the first half of they year, I picked the five that are sitting at the top of my TBR. And then, because I’m greedy, I chose the five books I’m most looking forward to for the second half of 2014.

Let the debates (/arguments) begin!

Top 5 books Jan-June 2014

Lost for Words - Edward St Aubyn (Picador)

Edward St Aubyn is, quite simply, one of the greatest British writers alive today. You can read my review of this brilliant, funny book over on my blog.

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Shotgun Lovesongs - Nickolas Butler (Picador)

It’s no surprise that the film rights were snapped up to this brilliant debut prior to publication. A story of friendships, rivalries, life’s disappointments and hope, it’s filled with characters who’ll stay with you long after you turn the final page.

The Examined Life - Stephen Grosz (Vintage)

I sneaked this in under the paperback publication date (it was originally published last year). Continuing in the tradition of Freud, Grosz’s case studies read like perfectly-formed short stories. Beautifully written, brilliantly insightful - it’s the best non-fiction book I’ve read in years. 

The Memory Book - Rowan Coleman (Ebury Press)

This story of one woman’s early onset Alzheimer’s - and the impact on her family - is undoubtedly one of the most moving books I’ve read this year. A gentle piece of advice: keep the tissues to hand.

A Song for Issy Bradley - Carys Bray (Hutchinson)

Published this week, Carys Bray’s debut novel deserves the lavish praise that’s been heaped on it in the press: the story of a Mormon family coming to terms with the death of a child, it’s beautifully restrained with a deftness to the prose and characterisation you’d expect from a seasoned novelist.  

 

Top 5 Jan-Jun 2014 TBR

Here’s what’s still sitting patiently (or maybe impatiently) at the top of my TBR from Jan-June, all of which have had fabulous reviews from press and bloggers alike:

Wake - Anna Hope (Transworld)

Spare Brides - Adele Parks (Headline)

Mr Sinclair’s Suitcase - Louise Walters (Hodder)

The Museum of Ordinary Things - Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster)

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me - Lucy Robinson (Penguin)

 

Top 5 July-Dec 2014

And finally, the five books I’m most excited about for the second half of the year:

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go - Judy Chicurel (Headline, Oct)

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I’ve read this book already. They’ll know it because I can’t stop talking about how bloody wonderful it is. I’ll review it nearer to publication but for now, just trust me - beg, borrow or do whatever's necessary to get your hands on a copy.


 

The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters (Virago, Aug) 

I’ve just started this and the writing is every bit as brilliantly subtle and powerful as you’d expect from Sarah Waters. Full review to follow.

The Children’s Act - Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape, Sept)

Any novel from McEwan is a literary event in itself. Fully expecting this to be one of the biggest books of the autumn. 

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy - Rachel Joyce (Transworld, Oct)

If, like me, you loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry then you’ll be as desperate as I am to read Queenie’s story.

Man at the Helm - Nina Stibbe (Viking, Aug)

If you’re one of the gazillion people who’ve read Love, Nina (there's a review on my blog) you’ll already know that Nina Stibbe is, quite simply, one of the funniest writers around. I’ve already heard great things about her debut novel and suspect it’ll be one of the talked-about books of the summer.

 

So there you have it. What have been your best books of the year so far? And which are you most looking forward to in the second half of 2014?

Big thanks to all the publishers who've sent me review copies. I promise I'm trying to keep up with the reading...!